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Guava Island

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Guava Island Movie Poster Image
Glover's short film mixes music, mild violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 55 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Not really a message film, but community and personal integrity are valued. The film has a peace-and-love vibe.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is good-hearted and brave.

Violence

A character is shot to death, but it's not shown graphically. Physical evidence that a character was roughed up off-camera. Kidnapping.

Sex

The main character and his girlfriend are in love, and she gets pregnant, but nothing particularly sensual is shown.

Language

Donald Glover/Childish Gambino's lyrics can occasionally contain profanity, but if any of words slipped into "Guava Island," they've done so imperceptibly.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Guava Island is an hour-long movie starring Donald Glover as a local musician who wants to throw a festival on an island run by a brutal boss (Nonso Anozie) who may go to extremes to stop it. Expect some fairly bloodless menacing by bad guys: A character is shot to death (non-graphic), and there's physical evidence that suggests a character was roughed up off-camera. Adult themes include unplanned pregnancy and violent threats, but there's no explicit content. Rihanna and Letitia Wright (Black Panther) co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNeon 999 April 14, 2019

Solid

Donald glover can't do anything wrong can he? Fine for 9 and up
Parent of a 14 year old Written byahmed aiman 99 April 14, 2019

This is Guava Island!

It's unfortunate that all the creativity ran out of steam just when the main plot kicked off, because all the familiarity could have been easily unfelt wit... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySomebody26 April 14, 2019

A Short Story That Stays With You

Although it may not directly relate to current issues, this film has great acting and thrilling and moments. It will seem entertaining but a bit pointless, but... Continue reading

What's the story?

Beloved, scrappy local musician Deni (Donald Glover) lives on GUAVA ISLAND with his loving girlfriend, Kofi (Rihanna). According to legend, the island used to be a paradise before the forces of thuggish capitalism (the "Red" family, whose honcho is played by Nonso Anozie) corrupted it, all but enslaving its people. Kofi wants to get off the island with Deni; Deni wants to throw a music festival to lift up his people. And Red? He doesn't want the people focused on anything but work, so he may take extreme action to stop Deni.

Is it any good?

Guava Island may not have the crackling brilliance that Glover has spoiled us to expect, but it's still a warmly assembled showcase for his talents. It's a harmless bit of self-mythologizing that harkens to The Harder They Come, City of God, Purple Rain, and others. Glover casts himself as a good-hearted musical savior -- something you might expect Glover to do ironically, but which seems in earnest here -- and brings plenty of personality and chops to sell it. There are no surprises in the plotting and movement of this music-infused, short (it's 55 minutes long) film. But that's of questionable importance, since it seems to be about the experience, rather than the story or characters.

Frequent Glover collaborators director Hiro Murai (who also helmed Glover's famous "This Is America" video and many episodes of his Atlanta series) and cinematographer Christian Sprenger (an Emmy winner for Atlanta) capture a summery island vibe. The film's boxy 4:3 aspect ratio and grainy celluloid look evoke the '70s with fondness. With several new songs and reinterpreted pieces of Glover/Childish Gambino hits "This Is America," "Summertime Magicm" and "Feels Like Summer," Guava Island also feels like a less-trippy "Magical Mystery Tour" at times. Glover's performance swings from naturalistic to something more suited to the large gestures of a movie musical. But that's OK, since the film's mythological introduction and habit of bursting into song tell us not to anchor ourselves too much in naturalistic reality. In a small role as Kofi's co-worker in one of Red’s sweatshops, Letitia Wright reminds us of her irresistible charisma. This slight but charming film may be designed for a passing cultural moment -- sort of a Snapchat of a mini-movie, but with distinct flavor and powerhouse talent.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the underlying themes in Guava Island. It's set up with a mythical introduction that includes how the gods abandon the island when men's greed takes over. How does that play out in the film?

  • What effect did the jumping-into-musical moments have on you? What did it tell you about the film, the storytelling, its world? 

  • What audience do you think this movie is intended for? How can you tell?

Movie details

For kids who love music

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